As 2021 draws to a close we've looked back on some of the photographs that have told Wales' story over the past 12 months.

The year started with Wales in lockdown as the Covid-19 pandemic, which had blighted 2020, came back with a vengeance at Christmas. 

Twelve months on it may feel that little has changed with tightened restrictions in place, though only in three of the four UK nations, to deal with the renewed threat posed by the Omicron variant. 

These pictures illustrate some of the events, joys and sadness that have shaped 2021 in Wales.

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A gritter negotiates a snow covered A470 at Pontypridd after overnight snow showers in January.

A police officer is reflected in a mirror held by a protester outside Cardiff Bay Police Station (below). Crowds gathered on three consecutive days to protest after 24-year-old Mohamud Hassan, from Cardiff, had died shortly after his release, without charge, from custody at the station.

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By February the Covid vaccination programme was well underway and in Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire (below) pensioners were being taken to vaccination centres by tuk tuks.

Firm Tuk Tuk Wales had volunteered its vehicles to support the vaccination drive.

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On Monday, February 22 all pupils aged three to seven were able to return to school in Wales as schools gradually re-opened for the first time since Christmas.

Pictured (below) are pupils at Williamstown Primary School in Rhondda.

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Rugby's Six Nations Championship was played behind closed doors meaning there were no fans inside the Principality Stadium to see Wales defeat England 40-24 (below).

Despite missing out on a Grand Slam, after losing a thrilling final match in Paris to France, Wales were still crowned tournament champions.

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A mural was created, for Mother’s Day, on Quay Street, Cardiff of Professor Alka Suraj Prakash Ahuja. 

READ MORE: Virtual health care points to new medical landscape

The consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, from the city, was appointed an MBE for services to the NHS during the pandemic having helped establish the NHS Wales Video Consulting Service.

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During the summer's Euro 2020 Football Championship a mural featuring Nicole Ready, also of Cardiff, was painted on the same space to celebrate Wales' diversity and the unifying power of sport.

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As Covid restrictions eased in March hairdressers and barber salons were able to re-open much to the relief of the first customers at Swyd Tattoo and Barber Shop in Cardiff (below), though restrictions relating to tattoos were yet to be lifted.

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Protests continued in March amid concern at violence against women, following the death of Sarah Everard, in London, with a serving Met Police officer charged, and later convicted, of her murder, as well as police brutality and racism, and the right to protest freely.

READ MORE: How UK Policing Bill will affect right to protest in Wales

Below protesters gathered outside Cardiff Central Police Station.

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As the year progressed attention turned to the Senedd election which was held in May. 

Campaigning was impacted by the remaining Covid restrictions which still prevented large gatherings and the pandemic meant politicians kissing babies was strictly off limits. 

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak took the opportunity to visit Rhyl with Welsh Conservative Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies and Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart, who both enjoyed the local delicacy - a cone of chips.

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On the southern coast, Prime Minister Boris Johnson stopped at Barry Island.

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Despite the best efforts of the Downing Street pair, once all the votes had been cast on Thursday, May 6 (and counted the following day rather than overnight due to the pandemic), it was Labour leader Mark Drakeford celebrating as his party won half the seats in the 60 member Senedd election.

READ MORE:  ‘Radical’ pledge raises eyebrows for easy-does-it government

He is pictured (below) alongside wife Clare on their way to cast their votes at their local polling station in St Catherine’s Church Hall, Cardiff.

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In May, Muslims were able to celebrate Eid-al-Fitr to mark the end of Ramadan. The open air event at Cardiff Castle (below) was one of a limited number of pilot events allowed to take place as the Welsh Government looked to ease Covid restrictions. An estimated 150 to 200 people attended the prayer event.

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Later that week pubs and bars were able to re-open indoors and this group in Cardiff city centre (below) were in high spirits.

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A night of violence on the Mayhill estate in Swansea, in May, saw cars set alight and pushed down a hill and a family forced from their home. Home Secretary Priti Patel and First Finister Mark Drakeford condemned the violence.

READ MORE: ‘Drugs, drink and nothing to do’: Swansea's Mayhill

The following day residents joined council workers to help in the clear up.

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As the European Football Championships started in June international travel restrictions meant very few Welsh fans could follow the team who played at venues across Europe.

The tournament finished at the first knockout round for Wales with a 4-0 defeat to Denmark in Amsterdam. 

At a fanzone at Cardiff Arms Park a Wales fan reacts (below) as the Danes score their final goal confirming Wales' elimination from the tournament that had been delayed from 2020.

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In September Olympians Lauren Price and Lauren Williams were welcomed home to Caerphilly County Borough with a procession through Blackwood in an open top classic car.

Price, from Ystrad Mynach, became the first Welsh boxer to win gold at the Olympics while Williams, from Blackwood, won silver in taekwondo at the games in Tokyo.

Large crowds lined the streets to celebrate the pair's triumphant return.

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At the end of September, the first statue of a real Welsh woman was unveiled, as Cardiff headteacher Betty Campbell was immortalised in bronze in the heart of the capital.

READ MORE: Betty Campbell monument unveiled in Cardiff sunshine

Mrs Campbell, who died in 2017, was Wales' first black headteacher and a campaigner for education, anti-racism and for the Butetown community where she had grown up and raised her own family and taught generations.

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Great granddaughter Ezrae Campbell, aged 8, is pictured above sitting on the base of the statue, which was unveiled by family members (below).

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In October Wrexham welcomed US comedy actor and producer Rob McElhenney and Canadian film star Ryan Reynolds on their first visit to the town.

The friends had bought Wales oldest professional football club in 2020 but the pandemic had prevented them from visiting the famous Racecourse ground.

However in October they finally made it to Y Cae Ras to see the side they have taken to their hearts draw 1-1 with Torquay and were introduced to the crowd before kick-off (below).

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In November a dramatic cave rescue operation was launched deep underneath the Brecon Beacons when a caver fell and became trapped in Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, north of Ystradgynlais.

The operation lasted 54 hours as cave rescue teams, from across the UK, worked to carry the man out and the South & Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team, based at nearby Penwyllt, shared a photograph of the operation (below) alongside the entrance and exit hole of the cave which rescuers were using.

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In sport, Wales narrowly lost to South Africa in a rugby test at the Principality Stadium in November but a pitch invader, who appeared to prevent a potential try-scoring opportunity, stole the headlines.

It was reported the 28-year-old, from Caerphilly, had received death threats as a result of his attention-seeking prank. He is pictured below being led away by stewards while being pelted by an angry crowd.

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Football fans had cause to celebrate in November however following a 1-1 home draw with Belgium as the Welsh men's side had secured a home World Cup play-off to be played in March. Pictured, below, are members of the Red Wall celebrating the successful campaign at the Cardiff City Stadium.

READ MORE: Why are rugby fans treated so differently to football fans?

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In politics it was Labour and Plaid Cymru figures feeling pleased with themselves as they officially agreed a cooperation agreement.

READ MORE: Is this the deal to save Welsh communities?

Though Labour had won 30 seats at May's election it was still one short of a majority and Mark Drakeford set about striking a deal on policies with Plaid leader Adam Price which was formally announced on the steps of the Senedd in November.

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The month also saw the funeral of 10-year-old Jack Lis who died after being attacked by a dog while playing at a friend’s house after school in Penyrheol, Caerphilly.

Hundreds of people wearing red and carrying red balloons gathered for the funeral in Caerphilly and a procession of high-end cars was led around the town and castle.

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As the year has drawn to a close the Omicron variant of Covid-19 emerged and it was first detected in South Africa with the country soon placed on the UK's travel red list while Welsh rugby sides Cardiff and Scarlets were in the country for league fixtures which have had to be postponed.

When the players returned from South Africa they had to enter hotel quarantine and while the Llanelli-based side had to forefit a European fixture Cardiff put together a makeshift side of academy players and veterans to take on French giants Toulouse in the Heineken Champions Cup in December.

Pictured below is veteran player Dan Fish, who had announced his retirement in October, after playing in the memorable 39-7 defeat at Cardiff Arms Park.

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As restrictions, closing large indoor venues and events, have returned people in Wales are once again adjusting to living with enhanced public health regulations.

That has also seen events including park runs stopped, as outdoor group activities are limited to no more than 50 people, with one of the last to be staged before the new rules were introduced on Boxing Day the Christmas Day ParkRun in Cardiff's Bute Park (below).

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